After bringing home the gold in the 1948 London games, decathlete Bob Mathias headed to Helsinki in 1952 to make it a double.
His grueling sport was described in TIME’s cover story, underscoring the intensity of the four track and six field events that comprise it. And Mathias was highlighted as the ideal candidate for a repeat medal:
“He has the steel-spring legs of a sprinter, the back muscles of a pole vaulter and the barrel chest of a distance man. He also has the nerveless self-control to make the most of his natural advantages, and the confidence of a champion who knows that his only real competition is the law of gravity and the pull of time.”
Indeed, he became the first Olympian to successfully defend his decathlon title from four years earlier.